By Suzanne Castle
As a minister-type I’m often asked about the state of world/humanity/faith/church. While I’m often tempted to answer “UNPREDICTABLE,” these days I’m more inclined to answer “WONDROUS.”
Hear me out.
It’s so easy to fall into the trap of whatever/whoever is wrong with “fill-in-the-blank-with-your-issue.” I think it is much harder to see the wonder, awe, and hope in the “fill-in-the-blank-with-your-issue.” For example, in the state of politics in America, I think most would be apt to comment how chaotic, rude, disturbing our elections process has devolved into. Instead, I’m trying to find what kind of joy, what new idea is being formed, what I learn from a person in every conversation. It puts me in a much better posture for listening and loving.
Get in the way back machine with me for a moment. In 1997 the inestimable Rabbi Abraham Joseph Heschel wrote a marvelous book entitled "Between God and Man." If you haven’t read it, or read it in a while, may I suggest you do? In the meantime, sit with this paradox for a moment:
WONDER, RADICAL AMAZEMENT, THE STATE OF MALADJUSTED TO WORDS AND NOTIONS, IS A PREREQUISITE FOR AN AUTHENTIC AWARENESS OF THAT WHICH IS… ENDLESS WONDER IS ENDLESS TENSION….
“Endless wonder is endless tension.” That certainly describes life as I see it on our little bit of this cosmic bubble.
Did you ever watch the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, starring Gene Wilder? It’s all the rage again, with the sad passing of Gene. There’s that scene where the golden ticket bearers and their parents walk into his magical garden of delights. And in the movie, Mr. Wilder sings a song about pure imagination. Part of the song has this hauntingly beautiful invitation:
"If you want to view paradise
Simply look around and view it
Anything you want to, do it
Want to change the world?
There's nothing to it…."
The song wasn’t very successful when the movie debuted. In fact, more people hummed and sang along to The Candy Man instead. But as people have mourned Gene Wilder’s death, most of them come back to this song and the dream it paints for us to look at the world with a different set of eyes, and then begin imagining a new way to interact with the marvelous world manifested by our glorious Creator. Wonder is a state of mind. It’s a spiritual practice to align ourselves with amazement, joy and gratitude, even in tension. My prayer in these days is that we can begin to exercise our imagination.
Rev. Dr. Suzanne Castle lives in Fort Worth, Texas, with her daugther, Ava. As a former professional actress and ballerina, Suzanne’s past contributed greatly to her work as an artist for God. She has contined to find her way into the arts and serves churches as an artist, teacher, speaker, pastor and worship architect.
The Rev. Dr. Castle has undergraduates degrees from West Texas A&M in the fields of Musical Theatre (a triple major in Music, Dance and Theatre), Cum Laude, and a B.S. in Elementary Education with a specialization in reading, Cum Laude. She attended seminary at Claremont School of Theology where she received an Masters of Divinity with honors, in 2001. Her Doctorate of Worship Studies was received from the Robert Webber Institute for Worship Studies in 2011, and her doctoral dissertation was focused on the role of the pastoral artist.
Suzanne is a popular speaker with youth, young adults and people of all ages in a variety of traditions and experiences, both inside and outside the church. Suzanne is often asked to speak on the intersection of culture and the church. She can be found in a seminary classroom expounding on the history of worship, or in artistic space discussing the theological value of art.
She has presented professional papers at the North American Academy of Liturgy and has recently been asked to be a part of TransFORM, the missional community formation group that endeavors to connect people across the United States, as well as a part of the Church Planters Academy with Solomon’s Porch as an instructor. She is now part of the Red Letter Christians, with Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo, and is a featured writer for various other outlets.
She is proud of her latest creative activity: Brim--Creative Overflow in Worship Design, with co-author Andra Moran. It was published by Chalice Press in April of 2013.